Sign In
  • InsideTrack
  • September 29, 2010

    Searching for real estate data? Online resources worth checking out

    There are numerous websites and online resources for real estate research. This article will highlight several Wisconsin specific sites and two general real estate sites.
    Bev ButulaBy Bev Butula, manager of library services, Davis & Kuelthau

    Oct. 6, 2010 – There are numerous websites and online resources for real estate research. This article will highlight several Wisconsin specific sites and two general real estate sites.

    Wisconsin-specific information

    Assessor and property tax records

    Legal professionals often search property tax and real estate assessment data. The usual starting point for this research is a county’s website. However, not all Wisconsin counties offer tax or assessment data online. Check the Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association website since they maintain a list of counties with online access to real estate records.

    Every county has a unique web page, and this can make it difficult to locate assessment or tax information. Look for links on a county’s website entitled tax parcel information, real property information, GIS, or geographic information system. If you are still unable to find the data, try the site map link.

    A possible alternative to searching an individual county website is to use a portal created for this type of data. A portal is a website designed to collect and organize links on a particular topic. The Free Public Records Search Directory is one option. The Wisconsin Assessor and Property Tax Records Directory provides an alphabetical list of counties with direct links to relevant web pages.

    Another portal to consider is Skipease. Skipease lists both city and county tax assessor websites. If searching beyond Wisconsin, both of these portals include similar pages for other states.

    For firms that work extensively with this information, WireData Corporation offers a subscription-based service entitled PropertyLink. This database “contains over 2.6 million real property records, including commercial, residential and vacant land data from 48 Wisconsin counties.” Milwaukee Public Library cardholders have online access to this database via the library’s website.


    Tapestry is an online resource for county-recorded land records. The website is fee based and provides access to mortgages, deeds, and other real property documents for select Wisconsin counties. Currently, 19 counties use Tapestry, including Milwaukee, Brown, Winnebago, Dane, and Ozaukee. Tapestry is also available for several other states.

    Select a county for specific pricing and coverage information. The cost of a search is $5.95, and printing costs vary by county. Coverage also varies by county. For example, the Milwaukee database contains records back to 1985, while Lincoln County records back to 1990. Tapestry does an excellent job informing users when the data was indexed and verified.

    Wisconsin Department of Revenue

    The Wisconsin Department of Revenue offers several real estate resources. The first is the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual. The online manual is identical to the print version and is available as a large searchable PDF file. Find updates on the Department of Revenue’s website.

    The department’s Agricultural Assessment Guide, dated January 2010, explains use-value assessment. Individuals interested in this topic should also read the Legislative Audit Bureau’s report entitled Use Value Assessment of Agricultural Land, released in July of this year.

    Real estate transfer data is also available from the Department of Revenue. This easy-to-use database permits the user to query by municipality, address, or county. Using the advanced search option broadens the choices of searchable fields. The database contains the current year data. Historical data is available back to 2005.

    General real estate sites


    Zillow is one of the best-known real estate search engines. Search for homes, property values, and neighborhood data on Zillow. A search by address provides the user with a description of a home, often including square footage, number of rooms, and the year built. Specific home data does vary, but may also include sale prices and dates, tax data, and school district information.

    Researchers can review Zillow’s Zestimate® (estimated home value) and an interactive chart that displays home values for the residence, neighborhood, and city over a specific period of time (e.g. 1 year, 5 years, 10 years). Zillow also supplies an area’s Walk Score. The Walk Score is a proprietary system that measures the “walkability of an address.” Points are awarded based on the home’s distance to such things as restaurants, parks, grocery stores, entertainment, and shopping.


    Trulia offers much of the same general information as Zillow. The feature of interest on this site is the “Trends & Stats” tab. Find market trends for an area or view its “heat map,” which outlines the average listing price for Wisconsin counties or specific zip codes within a county.

    About the author

    Bev Butula is the manager of library of services at Davis & Kuelthau, Milwaukee. She is a past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin. Bev has written articles and spoken to numerous groups on issues such as effective Internet research, evaluation of Web sites and legal research. Prior to obtaining her Master's Degree in Library Science from UWM, Bev was a litigation paralegal.

    Previous articles:

Join the conversation! Log in to comment.

News & Pubs Search

Format: MM/DD/YYYY